Every year in the United States, nearly 3,000 people die in residential fires. Although accidental fires can occur at any time, one of the best ways to keep you and your family safe is to install a smoke detector in every room of your home.
Once properly installed and maintained, today’s advanced smoke detectors are on guard 24 hours a day, constantly scanning for signs of fire, smoke, or particulates in the air that can signal a problem. By maintaining constant vigilance, this simple and economical device can save your life, and help protect your valuable property.
The Technology Behind Smoke Detectors
Today’s advanced models rely on three different core technologies to alert to the presence of smoke and/or fire. Many smoke detectors available now feature one or more kinds of sensors, doubling your protection. Regardless of the type of sensor or programming, all smoke detectors have two basic parts: a sensor, and an alert (usually a combination of a loud noise and a flashing light).
Some smoke detectors are powered by a battery in the unit, while others are directly connected to the house current. Regardless of what kind of smoke detector you choose, it is essential that you test your smoke detector once a year, replacing batteries or the unit if necessary.
Modern smoke detectors feature different sensor technology, including:
- Ionization – By taking advantage of electromagnetic properties on the molecular scale, an ionization sensor is able to quickly and accurately respond to very small amounts of smoke. Many times, fast flaming fires like those that occur in the kitchen, or the ignition of paper or gasoline, produce very little smoke at the outset. An ionization sensor can quickly respond to these types of fires.
- Photoelectric – The tried and true technology of a photoelectric sensor uses two tiny beams of light, cross-set at a 90-degree angle. When smoke or particulate matter interfere with the light beam, the sensor is triggered and the alarm sounds. Photoelectric sensors are particularly accurate at detecting slow-burning, smoldering fires, which can be the result of an electrical short or other household accident.
- Dual Sensor – A combination of both a photoelectric sensor as well as an ionization sensor, these smoke detectors offer maximum vigilance in case of a fire or smoke.
How to Choose the Right Detector for You
Any smoke detector is better than none, as these invaluable devices can save your life. However, it is worth considering that ionization sensing smoke detectors often trigger accidentally when used in kitchens if they respond to burned food in the oven or hot grease used when frying. Photoelectric sensors are better at sensing fires that occur when people are asleep, the light sensor being particularly effective at sensing smoke from slow-burning, smoldering fires. Dual sensor smoke detectors offer the most comprehensive coverage, but it is important to know that some models will appear to be functioning normally even if one of their sensors has malfunctioned.
To help you choose the right smoke detector for you, below are reviews of three of the most popular models on sale today:
Pro Tip: Nest Protect
This advanced multi-sensor smoke detector maintains constant vigilance against all types of smoke, and comes with an additional carbon monoxide sensor. Constantly connected to the internet, the Nest Protect will send alerts to your smartphone or mobile device, alerting you to problems even when you’re not home. The Nest Protect is designed to speak aloud, informing you exactly what problem has been detected, as well as its source.
- Designed to last for 10 years – the maximum available by law
- Able to be silenced remotely with your smartphone or mobile device
- Connected to the internet without any special wiring necessary
- Speaks aloud to give you more detail about the source of the problem
- Can send alerts to your smartphone or mobile device
- Elegant and stylish design
- Also has a carbon monoxide detector
- Requires 6 lithium metal batteries, which must be replaced occasionally
- Can sometimes be over-sensitive to smoke sources in the kitchen
“Just minutes after I installed the Nest Protect, the carbon monoxide alarm started going off. At first, I thought it was a malfunction, but then later we found out that our furnace was giving off dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide. The man from the fire department said that carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, so we never would’ve known without the Nest Protect. This detector literally saved our lives!”
-Mary T. Garcia, Akron, OH
“I really can’t believe how much I love having these smoke detectors in our house! I love how it sends alerts to my phone when I’m at work, so I’ll instantly know if something is going on at home with my family. Last week my wife was frying chicken, and I got an alert on my phone. I called her right away, and thank goodness, everything was fine. Definitely an amazing device, which is why I have one in every room of our house!”
-Jose R. Dowe, Franklin, TN
“I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the peace of mind from knowing we’ve got the best detector on the market in our home. With dual smoke detectors, and a carbon monoxide detector, we’ve got a Nest in every room. There’s no way to put a price on peace of mind, but I sure sleep much better knowing that the Nest detectors are constantly watching over us.”
-Gwendolyn H. Welsh, Summerfield, NC
Inside the box, you’ll get the main unit, 6 lithium metal batteries, easy mounting backplate, instructions for downloading the related free smartphone app, and a handy user manual.
- Weighs just 13.3 ounces
- Measures 5.3 by 1.5 by 5.3 inches
- Comes with a 2-year limited warranty from the manufacturer
- Features Google latest-generation programming technology
- Instantly connects to your home Wi-Fi network
- Can connect to other Nest sensors in your home, maintaining the network even if the internet goes down
- Will send alerts to your mobile device in case of a problem
The Nest Protect is one of the best latest-generation multi-sensor smoke detectors available on the market. Able to be controlled remotely by a smartphone or mobile device, and with a speaking function to identify the source of a problem, this multi detector will instantly alert you to smoke, fire, or a build-up of deadly carbon monoxide gas. Easy to install, the Nest Protect will automatically connect to other Nest detectors to form a vigilant network of sensors in your home, protecting you and your family 24 hours a day.
The Kidde PI2010 combines both photoelectric and ionization sensors to give your home maximum protection against fire and smoke. The Kidde PI2010 is designed to be hard-wired into your home current, but includes a battery back-up in case of a power outage. The included “hush” feature allows you to easily silence any nuisance alarms with the touch of a button. As a safety feature, a small but powerful red LED light flashes twice a minute to let you know that it is functioning properly.
- Advanced dual ionization and photoelectric sensors for maximum fire and smoke protection
- Reliable battery back-up in case of a power outage
- Easy to use “hush” features silences unwarranted alarms
- Convenient test/reset button allows for regular maintenance and testing
- Designed to be hard-wired into your home current for long-lasting reliability
- RED light pulsing indicator lets you know unit is functioning propely
- Attractive white housing designed to blend in seamlessly with your interior decor
- No remote operation, so hushing nuisance alarms can be difficult with high ceilings
- 9-volt battery not included
“Frankly, my wife’s been after me to buy a smoke detector for years, so I chose the Kidde PI2010 based on the reviews I read online. Thank God, we haven’t had any fires, but I like to look up and see the red light blinking, knowing that we’ve got the peace of mind that this thing will sound off in case of any trouble.”
-John S. Holcombe, Springfield, MA
“I wasn’t sure if this smoke detector was the right one for me, until one day when I was baking a batch of cookies and I left them in the oven too long. Just as I was getting up to go check on them, the Kidde PI2010 let off a piercing alarm. I like the hush button, as I was able to turn it off really fast in that case, but now I’m glad to know that the super loud alarm will wake me up in case one night we do have a real fire!”
-Guadalupe A. Hathaway, Madisonville, KY
“My wife wanted me to get some of those fancy internet doohickey detectors, but I prefer tried and true technology. Took me just a jiff to install the Kidde, and it’s been working flawlessly ever since. The octagonal design is great for when you’ve got to put it in a tight corner, like our son’s bedroom. Hard to know what else to say, except that I put a Kidde in every room, and they work great.”
-William L. Harris, Austin, TX
In the box, you’ll get the main smoke detector unit, mounting assembly, three-wire harness, screws, and the installation and user guide.
- Weighs just 14.4 ounces
- Stylish white disc design that blends into ceilings and walls
- Measures 7.8 by 7.3 by 2.8 ounces
- Battery back-up provides protection in case of power outages
- Very easy to install
- Test/reset button allows for regular safety check
- Green LED stays lit to indicate unit is powered by your home current
With both an ionization and photoelectric sensor, the Kidde PI2010 is an excellent home smoke detector. Designed to be extremely sensitive to the first signs of a fire, the unit comes with a “hush” button in case of an accidental trigger. With two bright LED lights indicating power and function, you’ll always know with a glance that the Kidde PI2010 is working properly. Definitely one of the best mid-priced smoke detectors available on the market today.
First Alert BRK 3120B
The First Alert BRK 3120B features dual sensing technology, ionization for quick-burning fires, and dual photoelectric sensors for slower-burning, smoldering fires. Designed to be hardwired into your home AC current, the First Alert BRK 3120B also features a battery back-up in case of power outages. Using the manufacturer’s patented Optipath 360 technology, the First Alert BRK 3120B will maintain a constant vigil against smoke and fire, providing reliable protection for you and your family.
- Attractive white octagonal design
- Two different “hush” features for accidental alarms
- Has two different latching features for ultra-simple installation
- Very loud piercing 85-decibel alert will wake up even the heaviest sleeper
- Battery back-up is designed to give 4,320 hours of service before needing to be replaced
- Test button lets you verify unit is functioning properly
- Made in North America
- No way to tell if just one sensor is malfunctioning
- May not fit some existing brackets used by other models of smoke detectors
“Our old smoke detectors finally wore out, so I looked around and decided on the First Alert BRK 3120B. I was happy to see that it was quite easy to install, and only took me about five minutes. I especially like how you can wire a bunch of these detectors together so that they all trigger at once if something happens. Great little smoke detector!”
-Henry S. Ponder, Portland, CA
“The first time I pressed the TEST button, I nearly jumped out of my skin. Holy cow, the First Alert BRK 3120B is way louder than the old ones we used to have! I was very pleased by how rarely it triggered a false alert, even when my wife’s wreaking havoc in the kitchen with her creations. Definitely a reliable device, and would recommend it to anyone.”
-Owen S. Parkinson, Utica, NY
“I bought one of these smoke detectors and set it up right near the bathroom. Our old unit would constantly annoy me by going off after I took a hot shower, but I’m very pleased that the First Alert never does. I also like how it uses AA batteries, as I put in the expensive lithium ones so that it’ll be years before I have to replace them. Definitely a top-notch detector!”
-Francis J. Razo
In the box you get the main smoke detector unit, two AA 10-year lithium batteries, mounting bracket, and user/installation guide.
- Weighs 11.7 ounces
- Measures 5 by 5 by 2 inches
- Comes with two AA batteries included
- 10-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
- Powered by your home A/C current
- Easy to silence in case of accidental alarm
- Simple to install
With an attractive octagonal design, the First Alert BRK 3120B looks great wherever it is mounted, and is simple and easy to install. Featuring both a highly accurate ionization sensor as well as twin photoelectric sensors, the First Alert BRK 3120B is ready to provide round-the-clock protection against any type of fire or smoke. Designed to use long-lasting lithium AA batteries as a battery back-up, the First Alert BRK 3120B can provide reliable vigilance for up to a decade without needing any maintenance. A simple test button allows you to verify the unit is functioning, while a loud alert will signal that the batteries need replacing. Using the company’s patented Optipath 360 technology, the First Alert BRK 3120B is one of the most comprehensive and reliable smoke detectors available on the market today.
Regardless of which model or type of smoke detector you choose, it is essential that every home have one. While some models are pricier than others, it is worth the cost to know that you and your loved ones are protected in case of a fire. Be sure to always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and testing, and to replace batteries when needed. A properly functioning alarm can save your life, and give you advanced warning before a serious problem develops, allowing you to take action and spare your property from the devastation that a fire can cause.